Following the end of her eight-year relationship with Dermot Harris, London's Daily Mail, true their form of brightening up their pages with her extravagant image, reported in January 1979, that "actress Cassandra Harris has a new man in her life."
That man was Pierce Brosnan, then a student at the local Drama Centre - lightyears away from playing Britain's top spy, and even further off from being a famed actor. Due to Cassandra's popularity, however, his face, too, would become well-known on the London social front; anyone seen with her was sure to be noticed. "We met at a party six months ago," Cassandra revealed. "Eventually we hope to marry."
In actuality, the initial meeting between Cassandra Harris and Pierce Brosnan, who was then practically in the midst of the "starving artist" phase in his career, was a bit more private and a bit less of a pleasant affair than the intimate bonding that ultimately occurred during their first real chance to get up close and personal. Brosnan had been going through acting school with David Harris, one of famed actor Richard and former boyfriend of Cassandra Dermot's nephews. David had been living with Cassandra while in school, and thought of her as an aunt despite the fact that she and his uncle Dermot would never marry. According to Brosnan, the younger Harris spoke of his aunt frequently, and with great affection.
"One day I was reading for a part in Chelsea," Brosnan recalls, "and he said, 'You must come out and visit.' I went out to visit and I walked into his house, his aunt's house, and on the dressing table there was this photograph of this beautiful woman, with two little children beside her. And I said, 'This is your aunt? My God, what a fine looking woman.'" It was a few days later that the two actually met face to face. Brosnan was again invited to David's aunt's house for a drink and a poker evening, and apparently David had told him to help himself to the chicken in the refrigerator if he was hungry - and he did so, right as Cassandra walked in the door. She did not look overtly happy.
"She's just been out on a date with this nerdy banker," Brosnan would recall years later. Of course, coming home to an unexpected visitor (who was a complete stranger at that) eating her food was certainly not going to lift her spirits any higher! Suffice to say, Cassandra's first impression was not a positive one. "I certainly had no interest in him at all," she later recollected. "Here was this funny-looking man with this short haircut and definitely overweight-although he's very slim now. I didn't dream this wonderful person existed underneath."
Unlike Cassandra, Brosnan was instantly enamored. However, he never disputed her lamenting of his physical appearance, the accompanying outfit and hairstyle of which were for a part he was playing in a local production of a play entitled Filumena. "I looked absolutey ridiculous," he said, proceeding to recall his intrigue with Cassandra, who physically speaking, was his polar opposite. "She was absolutely raving beautiful, long blond hair, tanned... I was totally bowled over by this beauty. I never realized that she'd be my wife-but that was it, for me, when I first saw her. It wasn't for her, though. It took some wooing. Actually, I think she felt sympathy for me."
Apparently she did. Cassandra could have had anyone, as Brosnan pointed out ("There were lots of men around her at the time I met her.") Her sympathy alone, however, was not enough to win her over. She threw a party some days later at her house and Brosnan was invited by David, the nephew, as he often was. The ice seemed to melt somewhat, especially after Brosnan was one of the last guests to leave, though even this more personable meeting didn't appear to be love at first sight. David, however, was convinced there was something going on. "My friend kept on telling me she liked me," recalled Brosnan, "so I eventually decided to do something about it and see how she really felt. I bought a bottle of wine and some flowers and rang the doorbell and never looked back."
As for Cassandra, her first impression of "the Irishman with the funny haircut" was not final. "Once I got to know him I discovered we had so much in common - acting, books, music - and we never stopped talking," she said.
Perhaps their blossoming relationship was strengthened by the fact that their similarities went beyond the superficiality of just sharing the same passions. Both came from divorced families, and both were "survivors." When Pierce Brosnan came into Cassandra's life, much animosity was generated. "When I met her she was a woman who'd been hurt by a man who didn't quite know what he had in this wonderful lady and who was in pain himself," Brosnan said, alluding to her previous romantic partner Dermot Harris. "She had gone through a lot of suffering herself, a lot of negative pain."
The debonair Irish actor, then a long way away from his cultivated Hollywood image, and honey-blonde Australian beauty Cassandra Harris were living together just months after they met. With Cassandra's two young children now in the picture, his role as her significant other doubled as that of the fatherly figure to Charlotte and Christopher. Unlike many broken families, luckily for Pierce and Cassie (as he affectionately referred to her), this proved to be the least of their problems. The children, perhaps partly from never having enjoyed a real relationship with their biological father, instantly adored their new stepfather. "From the beginning, Pierce was just 'Dad,'" recalls Charlotte, "I can't honestly say either Christopher or I had any difficulty adapting to a stepfather. We all had a lot of laughs."
Never-ending laughs certainly never solved their financial problems, however. Both Cassie and Pierce found themselves struggling to make ends meet, and as a result each made the commitment to take whatever acting jobs they could muster no matter how minor or unflattering the roles might be; it was no longer about fulfilling a dream, but now was rather about supporting their newfound family. Brosnan subsequently landed the lead in what would later become a renowned mini-series, the Manions of America, about a nineteenth-century Irish-American family during the potato famine. It was an offer that came to him, oddly enough, after Cassandra beat him to the Bond scene; she'd landed the role of Countess Lisl in the upcoming 007 adventure, For Your Eyes Only opposite Roger Moore.
The production was under the direction of veteran John Glen, who directed over twenty motion pictures in the series featuring England's top spy. Glen remembers Cassandra fondly. "Cassie was a delight to work with and we had a ball," he said.
The filming took place in Corfu, and granted Cassandra and her family a free six-week holiday in the sun. Daughter Charlotte especially has fond memories of the vacation, and of watching her mother's on-screen chemistry with Roger Moore. "I remember Roger Moore sitting us all down and taking lots of photographs," she said. "He always seemed to have time for us, even though Mum told us not to pester him. I was allowed to watch some of the filming and the bit I always remember is Roger sidling up to Mum and saying, 'Your nightie's slipping, and so is your accent, Countess.' I was in stitches.
Though exactly how big of a stepping stone portraying a Bond girl can be varies from actress to actress, it is safe to say Cassandra - talented on screen, and well-respected by the directors and by Roger Moore himself - had proven her competency on the big screen. Moreover, the role of Countess Lisl, although only ten minutes in length, enabled Cassie and her boyfriend Pierce to find the down-payment for a mortgage on a big, terraced house near Wimbledon.